Sunday, September 23, 2012

At the end of the day we live with our choices

Did you watch tonight's Sunday Night TV program? Australia's currently favourite cultural cliche was in full flight this evening - the spectacle of grown men who are according to the gender stereotypes supposed to be reluctant or unable to express emotion, expressing emotions. Two weeping high-profile male guests was quite an impressive hit rate for Sunday Night and I'm sure they are proud of themselves. One of the guests also owned up to being an ex-psychiatric patient, which was piling one trendy cultural cliche on top of another. Of course, these guests were both on the show to promote things; a concert and a new autobiography.

The Australian Major General John Cantwell certainly did seem to be in terrible shape, after thirty-four years of commanding the Australian army in places like Afghanistan and the Gulf War. Cantwell cited one particular horror in the Gulf War as one of the experiences that triggered his post-traumatic stress disorder. It was the use by the American forces of a specially-designed military bulldozer to bury alive and dismember Iraqi soldiers who were dug into the ground. Cantwell had the most unpleasant job of collecting the body parts that were the planned result of what he described as "industrialized killing". I wonder whether Cantwell knows the role that an Australian university played in developing these killing machines? In 2003 the much maligned Australian international whistleblower Julian Assange was a student of mathematics and physics at the now very prestigious University of Melbourne. Poor Julian could never fit in, wherever he went. Our Julian still seems to be constitutionally incapable of doing what he is told, without questions or objections. Julian didn't feel comfortable in the applied mathematics department after he discovered the nature of the project that was being developed for the US military - a bulldozer designed for operation in the desert known as the "grizzly plough". This was too much for Julian. His disillusionment with life in the academy grew. He was disgusted when he attended some academic event in Canberra and saw hundreds of Australian physicists all toting bags carrying the logo of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation. Assange has described them as  snivelling conformists of inferior character. What did Julian expect to find in Canberra, I wonder?

Cantwell went on to serve Australia at the highest levels of the army, and saw soldiers lose their lives under his command, and he eventually ended up as the unhappy guest of a psychiatric unit. Cantwell now asserts that it isn't worth our while to keep our army in Afghanistan. Last time I checked Assange was still imprisoned in an embassy in London, without being charged with anything. Network Ten will be broadcasting their 90 minute telemovie about Assange's life on October 7th 2012. Julian has a heavy load of personal threats to worry about, but I'll bet his conscience isn't nearly as much of a bother to him now as it was in his university days.

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